At the turn of the twentieth century, Eastern and Western cultures began to impact the 5,000-year tradition of Chinese painting and calligraphy. Chinese artists underwent serious research and discussion on how to inject new spirit into traditional art and conceive new forms of presentation. Lin's art, in its honesty and loveliness, was capable of reaching beyond boundaries of language, culture and nationality. His perception and interpretation of beauty infused the Chinese tradition with a new richness and vitality, from which his works drew its unfailing appeal. Lin's creative achievements and his teachings would also exert a far-reaching influence on the modern Chinese painting movement that subsequently began to flourish.
The figure of traditional Chinese beauty is a trademark of Lin's paintings, and also the bearer of his sentiments toward the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the period of 1950-60s. The Chinese beauty he depicts is often adorned with the classic costume of Old China -- the subdued color schemes and the soft rhythmic curves breathe an air of chastised ethereality into the figure. Not only has it 'a remedying effect on all human sufferings', but also a soothing on the eyes for spectators today. The Lady (Lot 913) included in this Day Sale is finely balanced in composition; the slightly slanting posture the lady sits in and the S-curves of her flowing gown embody a synthesis of Chinese and Western traits while truthful to Lin's own artistic rhetoric. The lady adorns a pale green gown covered with translucent white gauze, a visual feat demonstrating Lin's dexterity in the interplay of ink, gouache and watercolor. The touch of bright green with bluish hues resembles the clear sky after the wash of rain or the tranquil surface of the lake. As Lin once remarked, his paintings were"mainly influenced by Chinese ceramic artsKespecially those of the Guan kiln in the Sung Dynasty, and Long Quan kiln". While the painting Lady physically resembles the Sung ceramics with its classic tone and soft, smooth lines, the green gouache on the lady's gown is a pictorial duplication of the limpid glaze on the ceramics of Long Quan celadon kinuta vase (fig. 1). The harmonious combination of colors reflects the ideal characteristics of a person in traditional Chinese culture - modest without being pitiful, infusing the painting's surface with a refreshing and reminiscent style of classic literati painting. Light ink is often used in Chinese paintings of female figures to delicately sketch the contour of the face. Yet Lin boldly dashes the same green gouache on the lady's gown to outline the contour of her nose, skillfully applying the technique of complementary coloring in Matisse's portraits (fig. 2). The layering effect in addition to the fine application of azure green to the lady's hair accessories, gown and the background, best exemplifies Lin's captivating treatment of the essences of Chinese and Western arts.
Compared with the light and fresh style in Lin's landscape paintings, Landscape (Lot 912) is an exceptional one. The components of the composition are bound with the common color tone of bright sapphire blue. The pointed tops, far-stretching lines and continual contours of the tall mountains are depicted in vivid and profoundly rich colors. Bright, opaque colors are sprinkled throughout to form the shroud of mistiness enveloping the mountains, forests and cottages. The gradient toning and spatial arrangement are filled with vitality within the small canvas of the painting's surface, with colors rich and contrasts strong, brushstrokes heavy but not dragging. In tact with Lin Fengmian's observation that "the Eastern landscape painting is the reoccurrence of impressions", the smoky mist enshrouding mountains and hills - the scenery prevalent in Southern China - condense and flow into the stream of consciousness towards a dream of Old China, as old as the time before the romantic Cu culture extinct in mystery. Lin's novelty in traditional Chinese art is marked by a new conception he has established, which strives to extract the physical form of landscapes from the spectacular view from the heights where human culture and art history gently collide. Any redundant details in visual reality are removed in Landscape, and instead are represented in the minimal form of symbolism, recalling the images of ancient pictographs, comparable to a complex polychrome symbol of lines. Lin integrates the elements of both concrete and abstract representation found in both Chinese and Western painting traditions into Landscape; the mountains, woods, grasses and trees are reduced to simplistic forms yet charged with vigor of life. On one hand, the imagery is rich in symbolism, bearing stylistic resemblance with works of Paul Klee; on the other hand, Chinese-informed landscape symbols are spread across the painting's surface, sharing a sense of simple classicism to Chao Meng-Fu's The Autumn Colors on the Ch'Iao and Hua Mountains (fig 3).
Lin's artistic conception of synthesizing the East and West is not only observed in the forms and techniques of his drawing, but also in his emphasis on their integration into universal aesthetics of the sublime beauty. For this purpose, he departed from the rigid portraits of traditional Western schools, and opted for a new mode of expression found in Romanticism and Cubism. Embracing his Chinese heritage, he paints beyond known artistic traditions, abandoning the formulaic overlapping of paints in Chinese literati painting to find a greater source of inspiration by tracing the folk arts of the Han, Tang, and Sung dynasties. As aptly stated by Lin, "the weakness of Western art is the strength of Eastern art; and the weakness of Eastern art is exactly the strength of Western art. When Eastern and Western arts complement each other, a New Art of the world is born." Lin has expressed this belief through his own art.